Escaping Normal

Two roads diverged in a wood and I took the one less traveled . . . And that has made all the difference. – Robert Frost

The road to Taos & the Chama River

With many hardships of the pandemic still looming, I think a great many of us would like to escape our new normal. Would you agree?

I recently watched Into the Wild, which is based on a true story. I had never seen a preview or read the book, but fell in love with “Society” & a couple other songs from the soundtrack, sung by Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam, and knew I had to see the film. A Rolling Stone journalist wrote that the songs temper the romance of absolute freedom with an eerie foreboding. A perfect description.

Another view of the Rio Chama

The movie, written and directed by Sean Penn, documents the cross-country journey of a young Emory University graduate, Christopher McCandless, after having given up most of his savings, credit cards, and other worldly possessions. During his travels, his heart is flung wide open by beauty, simple living, and some of the colorful characters he meets. Spoiler alert – the movie does not have a happy ending. But if you have ever escaped, or longed to escape, what society considers normal, the spirit of the movie will move you.

Life shrinks or expands in proportion with one’s courage. – Anaïs Nin

Before I left my home in South Florida years ago, I desperately wanted to escape. I didn’t know what I wanted to do or where I wanted to be; I did know that it was something and somewhere else. I had lost the job that was my primary source of income. My 5-year romantic relationship had ended. My best friend (of over 15 years) and I had stopped talking. And my favorite (husband & wife) ministers were moving over a thousand miles away. I shared with a Buddhist Monk Energy Healer that I felt the cornerstones of my life had collapsed. He suggested these painful changes were preparing me for a huge shift in my life’s trajectory. He couldn’t have been more accurate.

The Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, just north of Taos

There is a universal, intelligent life force that exists within . . . as a deep wisdom, an inner knowing. We can access (it) through our intuition, an inner sense that tells us what feels right and true for us at any given moment. – Shakti Gawain

After a few months of depressed isolation and subsisting on Merlot & Häagen-Dazs, I had an epiphany: the Universe MUST have a better plan for me, and it’s up to me to discover it. That insight opened my heart and inspired my determination. Because the idea of traveling had always appealed to me, (and frankly, I didn’t know what else to do) I decided to sell my home and almost all my possessions and hit the road. Once I made that decision, however, I was terrified. I couldn’t even talk about it without crying. I knew in my heart that it was right, but I wrestled with fearful thoughts most days and nights until leaving. Thankfully, once I embarked, a feeling of tranquility came over me almost immediately. The spirit of travel was revealed to me, and a ubiquitous sense of gratitude swelled inside me.

The untamed beauty of Northern New Mexico

On this path let the heart be your guide
for the body is hesitant and full of fear
. – Rumi

My first extended stay was in Taos, New Mexico. I had read about the wild beauty of Taos Mountain, sagebrush, buttes, and canyons, and I longed to see them for myself. Staying at a hostel, I met a group of people of various ages and backgrounds who felt like family after just a couple weeks. That group included a Vietnam Vet from New York who listened to a lot of Grateful Dead. There was a gal from Oregon who was taking a break from college. I met a 30-something guy who lived in a tepee nearby and got around on bicycle. I shared a dorm room with a Texas lady who was fleeing a life that had spiraled out of control. (I’m happy to say we are still friends today.) And, there was a young girl who had fled San Diego after learning her boyfriend had cheated & smashing his car windows. Like a family, we all shared food, rides, ideas, stories, and music. During the day, we explored Taos Ski Valley, the Rio Grande Gorge & the Mesa; drove the Turquoise Trail & visited Durango; and checked out art galleries, unique shops, & the farmers market. In the evening, after sharing meals, we would sit around a fire pit, stare into the mesmerizing flames & savor the sweet smell of the smoke, while one or more of us played guitar. It was a soothing balm for my weary soul.

The Mesa, thick with delightfully-scented sagebrush

For three years, I would continue my journey on the road, staying in hostels, with friends & family, in community, and in my tent. I wintered in northern Florida, and during warmer months, visited California, Washington, Maine and most states between. I hiked hundreds of miles, experienced the love and healing power of Nature, and shot thousands of photos. I explored spectacular mountain ranges, witnessed extraordinary trees, discovered vast fields of wildflowers & breathtaking waters, and often found myself close to wildlife. I learned to love the ascent of a mountain and appreciate geography and topography in general. I met friendly strangers from many countries and learned to cook new foods. And when my big road trip was over, I felt wholly rehabilitated.

I resonate strongly with Christopher McCandless’ story. The beauty, education, kindness, and healing I experienced while traveling permeated every aspect of my being, changing me forever. Escaping the normal life I once had was the best decision I ever made.

The “Mother Road

Blessings for the Unorthodox,

Lisa

The original version of this post was first shared in May of 2020. Thanks for (re)reading!

The content of this article is for educational and informational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice. Please consult with a qualified health care professional before acting on any information presented herein. Any statements about the possible health benefits of any subject discussed have not been evaluated by medical professionals or the Food & Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or illness.

78 thoughts on “Escaping Normal

  1. Dear Lisa, You made me cry. A good cry and a sense of closeness to you. Thank you for sharing such a beautiful and triumphant life story. I find it so hard to share the painful episodes of my life. Mostly because they are of my own making. I suppose I need to grow up in this area. But for now your bravery is vicariously mine. Literally, I would give my life for this human family but a coward in the ways you are brave. Virtual hugs. Smiles and keep going!! Yours, Deacon Gerry

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Your comment touched my heart, Deacon G. I find it difficult to share hardships, as well, as I, too, have made some less than desirable decisions. The first time I posted this story, I had fewer than 20 followers. Republishing it was a bit unnerving because I have many more folks reading my work now. But a lot of people say it’s inspirational, and I like to inspire. From reading your blog, I know you like to inspire, too. The love and kindness that you share with readers and congregants reflect your life experiences – all of them. So while you may feel you don’t have the courage to reveal specific hardships, they have served to polish rough edges, fuel your compassion & gratitude, and provide important learnings that come through your words and actions daily. Your ongoing commitment to understand & support spiritual teachings requires you to draw from all of your experiences. I admire you! 🌞

      Liked by 2 people

  2. What an adventure you have had! Still having? Thank you Lisa for sharing your story with us. By chance, yesterday I read in another blog a poem, The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry, maybe you know it already but the last line and a half is:
    For a time / I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
    Have a great weekend 💐🤗💐💐

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Ashley, thank you for reminding me of that lovely poem. Presence in Nature is indeed healing. And thanks for reading my story! I discovered northern AZ, my new home, while driving back and forth across the country, and I absolutely love it. During covid, being here has been soooooooooo much better than being in the Northeast due to possibilities of climbing, hiking, biking, road tripping, etc, even in colder months. So, yes, I feel like I’m still adventuring! I do miss exploring new areas, and hope to resume that sooner than later! Hope your weekend is going well! 🌞

      Liked by 1 person

  3. What an amazing story! It is inspiring to hear how you found a new, happy path instead of remaining stuck in a place that seemed to be throwing you a lot of negativity. I think the advice you received about how your current events were preparing you for a huge shift in your life’s trajectory, was just what you needed.

    After my sister stopped talking to me (and was pretty harsh when I attempted to repair our relationship) I found myself in a downward spiral as well. She was my best friend and we did everything together. I felt confused, hurt, and disappointed. After a while, I started to open myself back up and I found a new path for myself. I started blogging, fell in love with yoga, and slowed my life down. I guess sometimes our lives just need to be shaken up so we can learn who we are supposed to be.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Suzanne, thank you for reading & commenting! I think you’re right: the Monk’s words probably lit something deep inside me that was needed to spark my epiphany – I never put that together! I read your words about your sis with a heavy heart. Family can be bewildering. I’m happy to hear that you redesigned your life! As Rumi wrote, “The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” I believe that whole-heartedly. Enjoy your weekend! 🌞

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you discovered my blog & allowed me to discover yours! We do have a lot in common! I taught at a college for a while as well, online and in Boca at Everglades College (now Everglades University.) May I ask in what state you & your life reside now? So nice to meet you! 🌞

      Like

  4. Blessings to you, Lisa. While I did not hit the road for three years, about 2 years ago, my life changed dramatically, and in the midst of it, a marriage of 20 years ended, along with many other things; yet, as your post so elegantly describes, there is a knowing about these things, if we can tune into the feeling in our hearts…I love this post. Thank you for sharing parts of your story with us! 🤗

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Kudos for taking the less-traveled path and finding your groove Lisa. I did that in my 30s but never really found where I wanted to settle. Now, I’ve been in Arkansas for over 20 years because I got tired of traveling and moving, but not because I really love it.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. It was extremely brave of you to have sold your house to travel. From the sounds of it, your journey and life story sounds like something that would make an amazing book or film too. You have seen and experienced much more than the average person ever will. Your courage astounds and moves me. I’m trying to be courageous too in my own way by making plans to move to London to live with my sister. It’s a big adventure but something that I know in my heart is right “Life shrinks or expands in proportion with one’s courage.” nothing could be truer.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Simone, it’s so nice to see you here again! Your comment means so much. London, wow! That sounds a little scary but also exciting. I feel from reading your posts, if anyone has the courage to do it, you do. There’s another quote that I didn’t mention in my post that was most applicable to my situation, and I bet it will be for yours:

      “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:
      Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.
      Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it!” ~William Hutchinson Murray

      Blessings for boldness, my friend! 🌞

      Like

  7. Unfortunately, not a fan of Vedder or Penn so I’ll pass on the movie, but intrigued by your personal story. Some decisions end up being the right choice although that path may have its shares of stress, uncertainty and challenges – glad your early choice put you in a good position to move forward.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I so love your spirit my friend and travels and quotes, artists trusting your gut and all of your beautiful pictures and heart and soul shared. “After a few months of depressed isolation and subsisting on Merlot & Häagen-Dazs, I had an epiphany: the Universe MUST have a better plan for me, and it’s up to me to discover it. That insight opened my heart and inspired my determination.”
    And this made me laugh.
    You are simply the best my friend! living vicariously through your stories.. xoxoxo 💖💖🌷❤️❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  9. What an incredible story! I love reading about people who are spiritually moved to make great changes in their lives. You should write a book about your adventures, if you haven’t already.

    Liked by 1 person

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